Friday, January 11, 2013

Rosy's scrawled manhwa recommendation: Dangu by Park Joong Gi

Park Joong Gi

From the desert wastelands emerge two mysterious warriors, master wizard Yarong and his faithful servant Batu. On a grave mission from their king, they have yet to realize the whirlwind of political movements and secret plots which will soon engulf them and change their lives forever. When Yarong is mortally injured, Batu must fulfill a secret promise to leave Yarong's side and protect his master's child. As Batu seeks to find and hide the infant, Yarong reveals another secret to those who have tracked him down to finish him off--the deadly, hidden power of a Shaman Warrior!
One of the best-selling manhwa epics of all time, Shaman Warrior won the Korean Culture & Content Agency's 2006 "Best Manhwa of the Year" award.

Alternative names
Dan Gu

Shaman Warrior

Completed (9 volumes) but still being uploaded.

Manga reader sites (free)
Manga Reader

Rosy's scrawlings on Dangu
Dangu starts with a fairly standard impending bar-room brawl in an old-world style bar only to have the fight stalled. Things look to be off to a good start for the two warriors Batu and Yarong, but unfortunately they end up leaving to face far worse trials than either expected to face. It is only as Yarong dies that a betrayal is made clear but Batu is already far from his side and so he remains ignorant of the plot that saw his master's downfall. So begins a complex tale of political upheaval, betrayal and revenge that spans generations.
The remaining story revolves mostly around Batu and his young but quickly growing charge Yaki, Yarong's blood relative. Batu was sent by Yarong to care for Yaki and he does so personally for a while but soon enough he's put into a position of placing her within the not-so-gentle-care of those who'd raised him to be a top wrestler. Life for both Batu, who finally becomes aware of the betrayal that led to Yarong's death, and Yaki, who grows up under the constant threat of death by starvation or losing a battle, is tough. 
Both characters and their lives are engaging to read, their intrigue increased by the fact that it is very hard to guess what's going to happen next. Both also draw in and become involved in the plots of others, bringing with them their friends and colleagues. In fact, Dangu quickly becomes a story about political machinations, war and the genocide of shamans warriors (wizards as per the blurb). The added depth of the story compared to the usual betrayal/revenge plot makes Dangu well worth reading.
The illustrations of Dangu is intense and beautiful in a rough way. There is some embellishment of physical features but not in a disturbing way. Overall the impression is of realism and grittiness, with a focus on flow during fight scenes and the arid landscape the characters dwell in. There could be room for a map, given how much travel is involved and the number of important locations visited but map aside, the illustrations highlight the epic nature of the story. Light and dark are used equally in the scratching but neat style but there's often an impression of deep darkness and over-bright sun, adding to the harshness of Batu and Yaki's world. 

I'd recommend this manhwa to: those who love epic adventures, alternate history settings, martial arts, wrestling and magic.

Notes on manga reader sites
The quality of manga readers can vary. The uploads are often done cheaply or as a serious hobby by a collective. Be aware that sometimes licence hasn't been given but the sites noted above, Manga Fox in particular, are extremely careful about adding and pulling mangas according to license agreements. So you shouldn't have to worry too much about the material being pirated. There are also translated works and non-translated. Amongst the translated works you will find that the quality of translation may vary according to the skills of the translators. Usually the works are perfectly readable anyway, with only a few added or dropped words or a word in the incorrect tense or with/out plurals. But sometimes the text becomes gobbledygook. In which case, either seek another version or give up and buy an official copy once a printed translation comes out. The other issue of note is you may need to expand the screen to read the text easily as sometimes the scans are minimised a little.
I find that if a page doesn't download properly or some other issue occurs (too slow or someone ordered the pages incorrectly etc.) with one reader then skipping across to another reader and picking up where I was is quite easy and rarely annoying.
Otherwise, enjoy and watch out you don't get too addicted you forget about the necessary things in life.

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